CHAMPAIGN — A Champaign company that won $100,000 in a clean-energy competition last week says it plans to use the money to get its product ready for market.
EP Purification won the $100,000 Wells Fargo Early-Stage Prize at the 2014 Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago.
The competition, which involved companies from seven Midwestern states, featured a variety of clean-energy technologies, with nine finalists competing in the early-stage division.
EP Purification, based in the EnterpriseWorks incubator at the University of Illinois Research Park, uses microplasma technology to create devices for purifying water and air.
One of its devices converts oxygen to ozone, which is considered a better disinfectant for water than chlorine. Commercial laundries that use the device could potentially cut water temperatures, laundry time and expenditures on labor, energy, bleach and detergents.
Company CEO Cy Herring said the winnings will be invested into product development.
"I am surprised that we won the challenge since there were a number of companies involved with very good ideas for clean energy," he said.
Herring said company co-founder J. Gary Eden — a UI professor of electrical and computer engineering — gave "an excellent presentation which greatly contributed to our success."
"It was a 10-minute presentation with five minutes of questions" from the judges, Herring said.
Herring said the company has been contacted by several "interested parties" as a result of taking part in the challenge.
The other big winner in the competition was Black Pine Engineering of Michigan State University, which was awarded the $100,000 Department of Energy Student Challenge Prize.
"This is by far the highest quality and most diverse class of Clean Energy Challenge finalists we have had in four years," said Amy Fancetic, chief executive officer of the Clean Energy Trust, in a release.
All the finalists received coaching, training and business planning assistance from mentors coordinated by the trust, a nonprofit technology accelerator that helps launch clean energy businesses.
The trust is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Small Business Administration and donations from investors, corporations, universities, foundations and trade groups.